Nicholas Houde
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2019S, Lecture and Discussion (VOD), 2.0 semester hours, course number S02627


Technologies shape the world we inhabit. From satellite networks to domestic care techniques to sonic explorations of perception to automated global commodity chains to even language itself. With technologies playing such a large part in determining what forms of existence are possible on Earth, knowing how this global amalgam of technologies operates becomes an essential component of understanding the pressing issues of our time.

Yet how is it that one can talk about or describe such enormous shifts at the planetary scale? Across the sciences and humanities, many have begun addressing the Anthropocene (the geological age of mankind) using terms like the Technosphere in order to describe the interweaving of nature with human culture and technology that defines our contemporary world.

Over the course of four discussion-based lectures and an excursion to an event at HKW in Berlin, this class will explore how this terms has been used and how one might begin to grasp it along with its consequences using multiple academic and artistic practices. In addition to just reading about these changes, the class will also engage multiple artistic works as knowledge material that form the basis for explorations in sensation and perception.

Overall, the class will develop through a series of inputs that are worked through collaboratively in discussion and developed further into experimental projects to be created by student groups by the end of the course. The aim will be to foster a collaborative exploration of the Technosphere idea from multiple angles and ways of knowing iteratively and collaboratively.

Brief outline of the course

Session 1 - When can you call it a technology?

This day should be rather broad and provide a very basic introduction into the technosphere concept, how it is a component of the Anthropocene conversation, and how one can begin to describe a composite sphere that explicitly mixes Earthly processes with technological ones.

Session 2 - Life, Form, and Perception

After first sketching the technosphere as a general idea, this day will then talk about how this planetary scale technological sphere has and continues to shape the world we inhabit and our perception of it. For this reason it will focus on the relationship between life, form and perception in and through the technosphere.

Notably this will entail also involve how the technosphere is produced through ethical values and, at the same time, produces ethical values. That if the world is now a technical operation space through the interlinking of human culture and natural processes, our forms of life and our life forms are imbued with a radical sense of freedom and responsibility that needs to be guided by forms of perception and collective action that can handle such a an immense project.

Session 3 - (excursion) Life Forms event at HKW in Berlin, April 24-27

Before the Life Forms event in Berlin, students will get an introduction to the program, the HKW as an institution, and the space. This meeting will operate as a welcome to the HKW and an orientation point for approaching the program. This could also include students discussing first thoughts about the program with the group. A guided tour to the HKW exhibition “Bauhaus Imaginista” will be part of the program as well.

Session 4 - Projects

This day will be focused on presenting student responded to the Life Forms program in relation to the four modes of understanding laid out in Class 2. Each of the groups will be given around 30 minutes for their collective projects. After each presentation, the class as a whole will discuss it and work through the material in more depth.


+ Required, to be discussed in class

Session 1

+ Haff, Peter. “Humans and Technology in the Anthropocene: Six Rules.” The Anthropocene Review, 1 (2014): 126–136. (available on ownCloud)

+ “Phosphorus.” Dossier in Technosphere Magazine, 2016.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses” Critical Inquiry 35 (2009): 197-222.

(available on ownCloud)

Mattern, Shannon. “Maintenance and Care.” Places Journal, Nov. 2018.

Session 2

+ Roosth, Sophia and Stefan Helmreich. “Lifeforms: A Keyword Entry.” Representations 112, Fall (2010): 27-53.

(available on ownCloud)

+Benson, Etienne. ‘The Virtual Field.” Technosphere Magazine, Infrastructure Dossier, 2016.

White, Tom. "Perception Engines" Medium, 2018.

Gabrys, Jennifer. "Datum I" (22:00-41:40 min)

Hui Kyong Chun, Wendy. "On Hypo-Real Models or Global Climate Change: A Challenge for the Humanities," Critical Inquiry 41, no. 3 (Spring 2015): 675-703.

(available on ownCloud)

Gleick, James. Prologue to The Information: A history, a theory, a flood. Random House, 2011.

TallBear, Kim. “Genomic articulations of indigeneity.” Social Studies of Science 43, 4(2013): 509–533.

(available on ownCloud)

Art works

Sonic and visual art works will be presented in class that relate to the topics being discussed.

Examination Modalities

Students will be evaluated on three aspects of involvement:

1- Participation in discussion and collaboration during class

2- In-class assignment related to “mapping” the Technosphere

3- Final group projects

Participation will be evaluated on attendance and level of engagement with the class. As most of this class will involve discussions of the material, participation in discussion and engagement with required texts will be essential for fostering a more rich conversation of the material.

In addition to class discussion, there will be two tasks assigned. Hand-outs and explanations of the specific tasks being asked of students will be outlined in class.

The first, smaller-form exercise in “mapping” the technosphere will mostly be worked through during class time. This task will involve depicting the interconnections of the Technosphere using the exploratory methods put to work in the Phosphorus dossier of the Technosphere Magazine.

The second task will consist of an “experimental” group project that responds to the Life Forms event at HKW in Berlin. Groups will be formed prior to the event and students will be tasked to come up with “experimental” approaches to the forms of knowing presented in the event as interpreted by the material presented in the two classes prior to it. Projects will be shared during the last session and discussed with the class.


This entry also covers information for the course Technosphere by Katrin Klingan. You must as well register for Klingan´s course!


01 April 2019, 10:00–18:00 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies - Lecture Room
02 April 2019, 10:00–18:00 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies - Lecture Room
24 April 2019, 09:00–28 April 2019, 10:00, "Excursion, Participation mandatory"
03 June 2019, 10:00–18:00 Cross-Disciplinary Strategies - Lecture Room

Course Enrolment

From 08 February 2019, 09:00 to 05 March 2019, 08:00
Via online registration

co-registration: possible (3.5 ECTS)

Individual courses: possible (3.5 ECTS)